Having a baby? Don’t forget these unexpected costs

Having a baby?

The cost of having a baby in the United States varies greatly, and sometimes can get out of control. One study found that women in California face hospital bills for childbirth ranging from $3,296 to $37,227, and nationwide, out-of-pocket costs for the insured average $3,400. What’s more, health spending has been projected to increase in coming years. Hospital stays for pregnancy and delivery alone make up 5% of the national hospital bill in the U.S. With these statistics in mind, consider these three factors that contribute to ratcheting up the price and be prepared for costs might otherwise sneak up on you.
 

Prenatal care tests

Doctors will routinely suggest prenatal tests, including blood tests and ultrasounds, to check for disorders, defects or other problems early in the pregnancy. The average number of ultrasounds performed per pregnancy nearly doubled in the years between 1995-1997 and 2005-2006, and no woman wants to refuse a test her doctor recommends—but the cost of just one ultrasound can be painful. A single ultrasound can add hundreds of dollars to your prenatal care bill, and the number you end up getting may depend on the OB/GYN you choose to oversee your birth. Opting for two or even three ultrasounds can really bring up the cost of childbirth, and in low-risk pregnancies there is no consensus on whether the benefits of more ultrasound tests outweigh the costs.

  • Will my insurance cover the tests?

    Maternity care is one of many women’s health essential benefits under the Affordable Care Act, meaning all insurance plans must cover it. The issue is that the definition of “cover” depends on both the insurance company and the state, and the health care law does not mandate that all maternity care services, such as ultrasounds, be fully covered. Check with your insurance company to see what services exactly are covered.

 

Separate and multiple bills

Choosing a hospital for giving birth is complicated enough without having to account for how much different ones will charge. Over the last decade, hospitals have changed the way they charge for maternity services. Instead of a flat fee or charges lumped into a single hospital bill, hospital pricing is often done piecemeal, and patients are charged for everything from pills to disinfectants. The price of these services and supplies are often much higher than the market price, and the pricing scheme ends up costing expectant parents more than they expected for the hospital visit.

This can also mean separate bills from the anesthesiologist, the pediatrician and the OB-GYN, who may not all be in the same insurance network. (Getting services during delivery from doctors all within the same insurance network is often out of the hands of the woman giving birth.) These bills, sometimes arriving months after the delivery and with a daunting price tag before negotiations, can leave families frustrated and anxious.
 

Bills for unused services

While expectant parents can prepare for the cost of maternity services they use, most are unsuspecting of the cost of services they do not use. Some parents are confronted with large hospital bills for things they never, or seldom, used during labor. For example, one family in Texas was charged $1,650 for nursery services they never used during their stay. Other, more vague charges such as “maternity supplies” have also been seen on bills, and can add to your total without you even knowing what you’re being billed for.


Baby photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet's official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.